A blessed long life in a small town
- Julia Meylor Simpson © 2017
Margaret knows the middle-aged man
who shows up on her front porch
to repair her air conditioner.
She knows everyone in this small town.
Charlie was a quiet boy who played ball
on the school field next door with her sons.
School’s no longer there, her boys moved on
but Charlie stayed, married a local girl.
She sits at the kitchen table while he works.
She tells him he favors his dad’s
Irish side more than his mom’s Polish –
it’s those deep blue eyes.
And he smiles as Margaret tells stories
while he eats rhubarb-mulberry pie
at day’s end in her cooling kitchen.
Later that night, Charlie returns again
in her restless dreams.
She is sitting next to her husband, Bill,
in the front seat of a red ’53 Fairlane
far up north on their way to visit
relatives near Pipestone.
Her baby girl curls around her waist,
four sons wrestle in the back seat.
And then a buck leaps from a cornfield
and crashes through the windshield.
Brakes screech, gravel sprays
as the car rolls into a deep ditch.
Bill groans, the back seat is oddly silent.
Somewhere, beneath her,
a ragged cry.
When she wakes again, she hears
a car door slam and footsteps.
Then, through broken glass,
she sees Charlie’s eyes.
That’s where her dream always ends.
In her dark bedroom she touches
the jagged scar that runs down her arm,
her touchstone of sixty years.
And she returns to that empty road.
She recalls how a good man from her small town
chanced upon their mangled car
while driving home from a fishing trip
up north for walleye.
How he followed the emergency truck
to the hospital and stayed in the waiting room
until all five of her children and Bill
were out of danger.
How he called her relatives to tell them
Bill would need to stay longer.
How he took her to a store to buy clothes.
Margaret remembered trying to thank him,
but his quiet eyes and nod told her
there was no need to speak of it again.
It’s what you did for others in a small town.
In years to come, she would bless him
many times – when Bill came home,
after the births of three more children,
when his wife died, when she turned ninety.
And she recalled those long-ago summer evenings
when she’d see him at the field next door
watching the neighborhood kids play ball.
How he’d cheer for Charlie, his grandson,
the quiet one with his grandfather’s eyes.
Julia Meylor Simpson lives and works in Rhode Island and has loved the written word ever since she wrote secret stories as a young girl. Her work has been published in a number of literary magazines over the years.
Above image, 'Cumberland Public Library hallway,' by Jan Keough
Read this and the 60+ poems in 'The Best of Kindness 2017' available on Amazon.com or from our publisher's CreateSpace e-store: https://www.createspace.com/7018282